A naturalistic garden may seem wild to many at first. The goal here is to find plants that grow in harmony with one another. They may be 100% native plantings, or they may include plants from around the world that grow in similar environments. Here plants are not grouped together in bunches of threes and fives, but intermingled with one another. They are chosen to provide color and interest throughout the year (including winter), while not outcompeting one another for space. You will not see wide swaths of mulch - this ecological planting covers the ground completely once the plants have grown in.
The plantings are modelled from nature - a full shade situation under trees is considered a woodland planting. The shrubs along your foundation or a hedge are considered part of a shrubland ecosystem. Your sunny locations will be modeled from a prairie or meadow system. Plants are chosen not only by how much space they take up above ground, but by the space their root systems take up below ground as well as their own strategy for spreading themselves amongst the other plants.
You may choose an intentional color scheme to stick to, but you may find that in nature, plants always seem to be in harmony with each other. That bright yellow that you don't want in your current garden may look very appropriate in a naturalist-style space.
This photo is from the Highline in New York designed by Piet Oudolf.
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